Starting an e-commerce business may seem like a simple process, but building a successful site can be a challenge — even for large retailers. These e-commerce pointers for entrepreneurs can help you build awareness, drive traffic and turn prospects into paying customers.
Describe your site in relevant terms. Solving a problem or filling an emotional need for customers is a fundamental aspect of sales in any channel. However, e-commerce requires that you both know what customers want, and identify and leverage the search terms they use to find it in order to drive traffic to your site. Research the terms customers use to find products — like those you offer — with tools such as Google Analytics. Include the keywords and phrases that seem to present the opportunity into your site’s product copy, on detailed product information pages, as image titles and tags, and in your blog. With a consistent keyword strategy, your site may be more likely to appear among the top sites that search engines recommend when customers search using those terms.
Use customers to reduce purchase hesitancy. Trust is key to winning customers, but when you don’t have the opportunity to meet them personally, the opinions of others can help you indirectly convince prospects to buy. Invite customers to leave a review of their experience — good or bad — about your business and the products they buy, and show those reviews on your site. A study by The Nielsen Company indicates that nearly 60 percent of online shoppers look for reviews from other customers as part of their e-commerce purchase decisions. Though customers may not have the chance to see, feel or experience your product before they buy, the unbiased experiences of others can convince them to give your site a try.
Don’t force a relationship. Shopping cart abandonment is a reality of online shopping that accounts for nearly $2 trillion of lost opportunity a year for e-commerce retailers, according to Inc. While you may not be able to provide customers with the lowest price, fastest delivery or optimal product selection, research by Nielsen Norman Group reveals that you can control one of the most common reasons customers don’t purchase from an e-commerce site — forced registration. While there is plenty of marketing value to you when customers create accounts, forced account creation and/or login should be optional if your goal is to minimize cart abandonment. (If you want to encourage a relationship, consider offering special discounts or benefits to those who choose to register.)
Test your site functionality on all devices. It’s been nearly three years since Internet Retailer reported that more customers shopped online using mobile devices compared to PCs, yet Marketing Land reports fewer than 10 percent of small businesses have a mobile-friendly site. In addition to ensuring that your site’s layout adjusts appropriately to mobile device screen sizes, functionality is equally important. For example, according to WordPress toolkit provider WooThemes, an e-commerce site should take no more than three seconds to load. Ideal site navigation includes simple categories at the top of the site, and drop down navigation with detailed subcategories. Widgets that allow users to refine their search by color, size or price can also improve navigation for customers on both desktop and mobile devices.
Assure customers that their payment is secure. Incentivize customers to complete their e-commerce purchase by instilling confidence in your site and payment security. For example, a 2013 study by Baymard Institute revealed that when site visitors see the “Norton Secured” logo on a website, they trust the site’s security. If you use payment gateways to process customer payments, brand the page so customers are unaware they have been taken to a third-party site to complete payment processing. Once their transaction is complete, send an immediate acknowledgement that their order is being processed, along with access to a live representative they can contact via email or phone with questions.
E-commerce allows entrepreneurs to start any number of businesses with minimal upfront investment, but the sheer volume of online sellers demands that you proactively reduce the known purchasing hurdles to convert prospects into customers. Use these tips to ensure your e-commerce site is primed to attract customers, and provide the peace of mind they require to purchase.
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm. She has more than 20 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing. Follow her on Twitter at @BluePay_CMO.